Last week we had Tips for the leaders. In the sense of equality, we have to have an article for the followers this week. 😉
First of all, to avoid misunderstandings, we’d like to emphasise that these terms are of course gender-neutral. That means we mean both men and women. In the classical sense, a dance couple still consists of a man and a woman most of the time and because in lots of dance scenes that’s still the case 99,9% of the time, we try to exchange these terms and want to appeal to everybody.
These following tips should under no circumstances be read as “blames” or “attacks”, they should far more help improve a harmonious dance together and help us see the leader’s point of view and his needs.
I, Conny, constantly observe myself and have definitely made the odd “mistake” myself from time to time. Also, over the years I’ve had many opportunities to talk with various dancers and have learned a lot about their needs and wishes.
Here’s a collection of my discoveries. 😉
So.. let’s go!
1.) Body hygiene, perfume, hair & co
This point should be self-explanatory and applies to any people who want to be in contact with others. Dance of course is a very close form of contact and therefore demands special attention. A great start is simply showering, brushing your teeth and applying deodorant before going to a party.
Of course the choice of clothing should be considered too. Pure Polyester often starts to smell after a few faster dances.
We ladies like to critisise men when they sweat. But we sweat too and don’t want to make our vis-a-vis have to feel too much sweaty skin. So observe yourself a bit too and make sure to choose the shape and style of your clothing accordingly. Also: sweat stains on colourful tops are not very attractive. Of course the kind of material is important here too.
Many men complain about too much perfume if it’s very strong and intrusive. This of course is very subjective, but is also worth considering.
Followers often have to spin around a lot. Which is why we should make sure to not turn our hair against the men. A Ponytail might turn into something of a whip, while loose hair might tickle the man’s nose.
2.) Keeping your balance
The first step for a leader is to learn to “lead”, for the follower it’s keeping their balance.
It’s our job to get to know our bodies, to observe movements and turns and also to practice our balance.
At the beginning of their “dance carreer”, followers often believe they can relax, because the leaders have to learn to “lead first anyway”.
That’s not quite true…because we can help them in their learning phase and thereby also make our own life easier 😉 if we start working on our balance and our ability to turn right from the beginning. Another important point is keeping our balance in dips too. Please don’t just throw yourself into a backwards-leaning-figure, that might turn out to be very painful for you (and possibly also for the leader).
A classic… And there are many many reasons for it.
In my opinion one reason is a disbalance in the focus of learning – you concentrate on your “lines” and your own look too much, and not enough on the connection to your partner and the harmony within the couple.
The connection should definitely have priority over styling, otherwise we both won’t have a “good time” dancing.
It’s still called Social Dance and not Solo Dance. 😉
Styling wouldn’t be that bad, if it wasn’t for the leader being unsettled by it. So please make sure to only use it when you’re sure it won’t get in the way of the leader. Try and also watch your surroundings, your neighbours will thank you for not hurting them with big arm movements.
It’s important for us not to forget ourselves in dance, but to put the first priority on the harmony and the big picture of the couple.
A newcomer leader would be constantly insecure and uncomfortable if I keep throwing excentric movements and constant variations at him, so I hold back so as to give him strength and courage.
Whereas with an experienced leader, I can feel free to experiment, because he already has the tools to cope with these situations.
4.) Being too fast
I know this next point is a challenge. We followers do our best to follow as quickly as possible and once we’ve got it, it’s still “wrong” sometimes.
Often we’re too fast or try and take charge ourselves without our leader being prepared for it, or without our leader giving us that space to do so.
A leader interprets a “too fast” as a reaction that comes before he’s led anything. That way representing something he might not even have wanted.
These situations can unsettle a leader and should be avoided at all cost. We can observe closely and let ourselves be invited and then – when we’re sure about it – we can dance the movement quickly.
However we should also try to switch off our minds and not always think about everything.
For our head often interprets things incorrectly and leads us to conclusions that the leader can’t follow (wow, try and understand that one! 😉 )
Stay alert but relax, so that you can take on the leader’s idea without preconcieved notions and especially without thinking about it.
5.) Tensing (up) in our arms
In many dances we’re connected via our arms. Even if the body lead gives us a lot of information, in the end it’s also the arms that complete the communication or transfer it with various turns and spins.
Which is precisely why we need to watch out for the tension in our arms. Have we got spagetti-arms or are we all cramped up? Does our tension make it easier for the leader?
And how can I tell how much tension is right?
Of course the tension in our arms varies from dance to dance. However, it should still neither be too cramped nor too loose. The best way to start is by making sure your ellbows are always in a stable position. So that they don’t go behind our body line when pushed or completely straight when pulled.
Be aware that the leader usually wants to move your body and not your arms.
In other words, the faster we recognise how the leader wants to move our body (direction, turn, etc.),and the faster we can follow that, the better.
Cramped up arms can easily be identified by hands that don’t feel light and pleasant anymore. That’s also how we get all tense in our upper backs. As if we didn’t have enough of that from sitting at a desk! 😉
6.) Constant correction
This is a big biggie and goes for followers AND leaders.
In our experience that’s the reason for the most break-ups between dance couples, friends and partners. Nobody wants to be constantly corrected and especially not when you’re out for a night dancing and just want to have a good time.
It’s most difficult with your own partner, or life partner. I too have to keep myself in check! 😉
In a social (dance night, party etc.) there’s no room for correction, unless you’re specifically asked for it. Everyone should do their best to let the dance become a wonderful moment and experience. If for some reason it’s not working or the communication is wobbly, we can help each other, but WITHOUT speaking or pointing out our partner’s mistakes.
No…we make the best out of EVERY Situation! The best dancers are the ones that can dance with anybody. They have the ability to give others a feeling of joy and teamwork.
That way we’re both strengthened.
Of course there should be room for feedback and correction. But these are better placed in the right frame (course, practice session etc.) and not at a dance night with a stranger who didn’t ask for it.
If I really want to give him feedback, I’ll definitely ask him if he wants it first. One exception is of course, if the leader is too rough, so that it might lead to injuries. In that case it’s highly recommendable to point that out to him..carefully.
And don’t forget…a smile can go a long way here! 😀
„Politeness is like an air cushion. There might be nothing in it, but it can cushion life’s blows.”
I love this quote, because it says a lot about how I, or rather we, see politeness.
One could also add the German quote:
“What you shout into the forrest, will come back out again”
Treat others the way you want to be treated. Smile, be friendly, give everyone a chance and use opportunities to engage with other people. Be proactive, motivated and give others the chance to approach you.
Part of being polite is to accept invitations to dance and to not leave anybody in the middle of the dancefloor or the middle of the dance – UNLESS that other person is very drunk or has already insulted you in some way.
Even if that particular dance didn’t turn out to be the best of your life, nobody deserves to be insulted. Non-interest supports insecurity and NOT a leader WANTING to be better. Even if he makes a mistake…give him a smile and make sure he knows you’re a team.
Giving the leader the feeling he’s not good enough won’t encourage the shared dance or the motivation for asking you to dance again.
Be aware that everyone had to start somewhere and often a complete newcomer can turn out to be a true master. But he needs a friendly hand to grow as a Social Dancer and as a person.
8.) Be open and never stop learning!
Even followers can always learn new things and have to face their weaknesses. Even though the leader decides the frame, not every “mistake” is his fault.
It’s a myth that the leader alone controls and shapes every dance. If a follower has had the right training in various aspects of dance, he (or she) is of course far more capable of helping the leader to shape the dance. That gives you the opportunity to influence the dance too, instead of “just following like a good girl”. Dado loves dancing with creative ladies! That way he can keep experiencing new dances and always gets inspired again.
Be observant, keep going to workshops or courses and exchange your views with other followers. That way you’ll stay up to date and will be “desirable” in your dance scene.
9.) Timing and activity
Being able to keep the timing has utmost priority, only then can we turn into a desirable follower. Practice actively – depending on the dance – sometimes also on your own and work on the speed and the rythm. Watch out to not think that depends mainly on the leader. That’s another myth: “He’ll take care of it!” If the leader has to take care of everything, he’ll have very few ressources left for the important things – FOR YOU!
Jepp, that’s right, the poor guy has all the load to carry and can’t even lift his head because the load is so heavy. Everybody is responsible for keeping the timing themselves! (In Tango of course the timing is a very broad expression 😉 )
Work on your timing, that way you’ll radiate security towards the leader. And at the same time you’ll be easier to lead. Just pure teamwork.
Nobody wants to -excuse the comparison – drag a sack of cement around the dance floor. (That also has nothing to do with physical weight) But everybody can imagine dancing with a feather. 😉 I think that’s all I need to say about that. 😉
10) Don’t be an instructor snob!
Last but not least, I have noticed a phenomenon in the dance scene lateley, that no leader is good enough for some followers, unless he’s an instructor or a famous dancer.
Of course I understand the wish to dance with someone who’s better, who can fly over the dancefloor and can carry you in his arms.
But… “social” means so much more. It means also thinking bigger and further. It means recognizing the different aspects of a society and sometimes also putting the wellbeing of the community before the wellbeing of a single person.
In a dance it’s not just about that dance, it’s also about the connection in that moment. It’s about communication and the ability to recognise different facettes.
Which is exactly why it’s so important to:
- Support newcomers, for they are the masters of tomorrow.
- Learn different levels of ability from different leaders, that way I can improve many different areas and abilities in my own dancing.
- Give people a chance, that don’t seem “perfect”, because it’s exactly those people who might just surprise you.
- Recognise that everybody is “only” human, no matter what dancing skills he or she has.
- Share. Give. Be it joy, knowledge, time or attention… The person on the recieving end will appreciate it more than you might think and will want to give a looooot back!
This list could go on for a while, but Dado and I agree these are the ones that leaders talk about most.
We hope you can use this information for yourself, pass it on to others who might be interested or add your own experiences to it.
We’d love it to spark a discussion and maybe inspire a comment or two. 😉
Of course I’m available for personal discussions anytime, or for tips or feedback! Just approach me, I’ll try and support you as much as I can with my own experience.
The most important thing for us – and I’m sure that’s the case in many things in life – is to talk about it and bring up certain aspects, so as to make living and dancing together even more pleasant!
That said, I look forward to your opinion!
Nobody’s perfect and that’s OK,
just Dance And Make A Difference,
P.S. If you want to hear/see/read more of what we have to say, sign up to our newsletter here. That way you’ll get a regular update on the newest articles, videos and snacks and you’ll get the best conditions for our online courses and future events. 😉 Just do it!